Crews work to clean up after 6 cars of a 100-car oil crude train derails northwest of Denver
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | May 09, 2014
Crews work to clean up several train cars that were derailed and flipped along the track southwest of LaSalle, Colo. on Friday, May 9, 2014. The train, loaded in Windsor with Niobrara crude bound for New York, derailed around 8 a.m. according to Union Pacific Spokesman Mark Davis. Officials found one car of the 100-car train was leaking. (AP Photo/The Greeley Tribune, Joshua Polson)
LASALLE, Colorado — Crews from Union Pacific Railroad worked to clear a six-car oil train derailment that leaked some crude into a ditch Friday in northern Colorado.
State and local emergency officials determined that one car of the 100-car train was leaking after the 8 a.m. derailment near LaSalle, about 45 miles north of Denver.
The cause of the derailment was under investigation, said Micki Trost, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Division of Emergency Management. Crews had contained the spill to a ditch away from any waterways, Trost said.
The amount of oil spilled wasn’t immediately known, but a vacuum truck was brought in to suck up the spill. Tanker trucks lined up nearby to transfer the oil.
According to The Greeley Tribune (http://tinyurl.com/m96ows9 ), the train was loaded in nearby Windsor with Niobrara crude and was bound for New York. Niobrara oil comes from the Niobrara shale formation in Colorado, Wyoming and Kansas. It’s not considered as volatile as Bakken crude from North Dakota and eastern Montana.
Public and political pressure to make oil trains safer began last summer when a runaway oil train carrying Bakken crude derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and incinerating much of the town. Other trains carrying Bakken crude have derailed and caught fire since then in Alabama, North Dakota, Virginia and New Brunswick, Canada.
Repost from The New York Times
[Editor: Significant quote: “But safety advocates, as well as railroad officials, point out that these newer cars — known as CPC-1232s — have also failed in recent crashes….Ten of the 13 cars that derailed in Lynchburg, Va., last week … were built after 2011, including the one that ruptured and spilled 30,000 gallons of oil into the James River, according to Eric Weiss, a spokesman at the National Transportation Safety Board. At least two other recent train derailments also involved newer tank cars.” – RS]
Despite Orders, Federal Tank-Car Safety Measures Are Slow in Coming
By JAD MOUAWADMAY 8, 2014
The derailment of a freight train carrying crude oil in Lynchburg, Va., last week was a reminder that basic safety features of the oil-by-rails business remain vastly inadequate, despite a flurry of emergency orders by federal regulators.
The federal Department of Transportation, which on Wednesday said that the growing movement of oil trains posed an “imminent hazard” to the public, has nevertheless been slow to toughen up tank-car standards.
While those delays have angered lawmakers and local officials, a small number of railroads and refiners have pushed the industry to change.
BNSF, the rail operator owned by Berkshire Hathaway and the largest carrier of oil from the Bakken region in North Dakota, said in February that it would buy 5,000 new tank cars with the latest safety features. It was a departure from the industry’s practice of railroads not owning cars.
Other railroads and refiners in Canada said they would charge higher rates for older cars in a bid to move the industry to adopt the newer models, built since 2011.
And regulators in Canada recently mandated the use of the newest model within three years.
But safety advocates, as well as railroad officials, point out that these newer cars — known as CPC-1232s — have also failed in recent crashes.
Ten of the 13 cars that derailed in Lynchburg, Va., last week, for instance, were built after 2011, including the one that ruptured and spilled 30,000 gallons of oil into the James River, according to Eric Weiss, a spokesman at the National Transportation Safety Board. At least two other recent train derailments also involved newer tank cars.
The fiery Lynchburg derailment, where 350 people were evacuated, was the latest in a series of accidents that have caught industry regulators as well as railroads off guard. Last year, an oil train exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people.
Critics have long contended that the tank cars that are commonly used to carry crude oil and other petroleum products do not have enough safety features to prevent a spill.
The federal safety board has repeatedly noted in recent years that the tank cars — called DOT-111s — have a high rate of failures in accidents. Making things worse, the kind of oil that comes out of the Bakken region is particularly flammable and prone to explosion.
During a safety forum recently, the departing chairwoman of the safety board, Deborah Hersman, warned of the risk of a “higher body count” if regulators did not update tank car standards.
On Wednesday, transportation regulators said they would urge shippers to stop using older tank cars to carry crude oil, recommending that they use cars with “the highest level of integrity.”
But industry officials point out that phasing out older cars too fast would lead to a shortage in tank cars, which could ultimately curtail the surging production of oil from the Bakken.
About 98,000 DOT-111 tank cars are in service carrying crude oil and ethanol in the United States and Canada, according to the Association of American Railroads. Their design dates to the 1960s and the overwhelming majority were built before 2011. Only about 18,000 were built after that date and could be modified easily if needed.
Thomas D. Simpson, the president of the Rail Supply Institute, a trade group representing shippers and tank car owners, said 55,000 new cars had been ordered through 2015.
The Association of American Railroads, the industry’s trade group, has said older cars should be rapidly phased out or refitted. It has proposed a set of improvements, including better protections to valves and handles, to prevent them from opening in a crash; the use of high-pressure relief valves; and thicker steel tanks and thermal protections. Those improvements are intended to further strengthen safety features that were incorporated after 2011.
The Transportation Department has been working on the new standard for several years. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told a Senate committee hearing on Wednesday that his department was moving as fast as it could on new safety regulations for oil shipments by rail, including new tank standards.
Regulators sent their latest proposals to the White House last week, and said they expected to make their proposed rules public by the summer. This would be followed by a 60-day public comment period, which would also need to be reviewed. This means final regulations would not be likely before the end of the year.
“These issues are complex and recent crashes, including Lynchburg, show why we need to take the time to get it right and make sure the new design reflects the latest information,” said Casey M. Hernandez, deputy director of public affairs at the Department of Transportation.
The number of oil tank-car failures and accidents has risen sharply in recent years, as crude shipments have surged. In the emergency order directing railroads to provide traffic information to state officials, the Department of Transportation called the accident rate “startling.”
In 2013, there were 116 episodes involving tank cars carrying crude oil, according to the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, more than twice the number of all episodes between 1990 and 2009. And 154 tank cars failed last year, according to federal records, a 50 percent jump from the previous year.
The details of what regulators are considering have not been made public and industry officials said they did not know yet what to expect. If the United States regulations are more stringent than those adopted in Canada, officials there said they would toughen their own rules to match them.
“We recognize the status quo isn’t acceptable,” said Mr. Simpson of the Rail Supply Institute. “If I could say one thing to the secretary of transportation, it is get the rule out. Give us certainty and we will act.”
A version of this article appears in print on May 9, 2014, on page B3 of the New York edition with the headline: Despite Orders, Federal Tank-Car Safety Measures Are Slow in Coming.
Repost from Sunflower Alliance & Idle No More – Download:Media Advisory – All about the Benicia-Martinez Walk on May 17
[Editor – EVERYONE in the Bay Area is invited! It will be fun, inspiring, colorful and an important contribution to our visionary opposition to Crude By Rail. Details follow. Please come! – RS]
National Day of Action Coming to Martinez and Benicia on May 17th
Local citizens conduct refinery corridor healing walk and say
“It’s time to transition to clean energy – No Keystone XL pipeline”
WHAT: The second in a series of four Connect the Dots: Refinery Corridor Healing Walks along the Northeast San Francisco Bay focussing on the Keystone XL pipeline, issues related to living near refineries and a just transition to clean energy. This walk is in conjunction with the May 17 Day of Action against Dirty Fuels to ask the president and local officials to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and other dirty fuel projects that threaten our communities and destabilize our climate. The Refinery Corridor Healing Walk will be one of hundreds of synchronized events with Hands Across the Sand/Land and other partners to raise awareness about the dangers of dirty fuels and the need to speed the transition to available, affordable clean energy solutions.
The upcoming National Day of Action is another manifestation of a growing movement demanding that our leaders act quickly and boldly to address climate change. It comes in the wake of the Department of State’s recent announcement that it was extending its review of the pipeline, and the Reject & Protect encampment in Washington, DC which dramatically highlighted the opposition of farmers, ranchers and Native Americans who would be directly impacted by the pipeline, In early March, Keystone activists presented the Administration with over 2.5 million comments opposing the pipeline.
WHO: Citizens from Martinez, Benicia and the Bay Area will be joined by members of the Sierra Club, Martinez Environmental Group, Stop Crude by Rail, CRUDE, Sunflower Alliance, APEN, Communities for a Better Environment, The Global Monitor, CREDO action, Greenpeace, 350.org, the Center for Biological Diversity and other organizations. Residents from Martinez and Benicia will be speaking at the morning and afternoon rallies.
WHEN: Saturday, May 17th – 8:15 a.m. Prayer for water, 9:00 a.m. Rally. Walkers will finish at 9th Street Park in Benicia
WHERE: Beginning at Martinez Waterfront Park and ending at the 9th Street Park in Benicia
***VISUALS WILL INCLUDE BANNERS, FLAGS, – See attached photos of Refinery Healing Walk #1 on April 12th attached
**EXCELLENT INTERVIEW AND PHOTO/ VIDEO OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE**